Diwali is the most important Hindu holiday celebrated each year in India and around the world by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains. Diwali is as important to Hindus as Christmas is to Christians. In this slideshow you will learn seven facts about the upcoming fall festival.
1) What is Diwali? The term Diwali, or Dipawali, literally means rows (avail) of clay lamps (deepa). Indians light the outside of their homes or businesses to symbolize the victory of light over darkness, or good over evil. This is why Diwali is also referred to as the Festival of Lights.
2) Diwali is five days long. On day one, many will clean their homes and shop for gold. On day two, it is customary to decorate the home with clay lamps and use colored sand to create patterns on the floor. Day three is the main festival where families gather to feast and pray. Day four is the first day of the new year when friends and family visit to exchange gifts and well wishes. On day five, brothers visit their married sisters who welcome them with a meal.
3) To celebrate, Indians buy gold. Gold is considered to be auspicious, particularly in Hindu and Jain cultures, according to the World Gold Council. Indian consumers purchase large quantities of gold jewelry during Diwali, as it is a store of value and symbol of wealth and status.
4) The Diwali food. Rich and savory dishes served during Diwali play a central role in the celebration. Families will prepare and share food at home with guests who come to exchange gifts. Indian sweets are a popular item during Diwali.
5) Diwali is big in England. According to International Business Times, Indians make up the largest foreign-born population in the United Kingdom. This is one reason thousands turn out to celebrate Diwali in Leicester and London each year.
6) Don’t forget the fireworks. Another way Diwali is celebrated is through large firework displays signifying one of the Diwali legends, Rama and his wife Sita. The fireworks signify Rama’s return to his kingdom after being exiled for 14 years and defeating king Ravana, when locals set off their own version of fireworks.
7) Religious prayer rituals. Throughout the five days of Diwali, different types of religious prayer rituals, or “puja”, will take place. Hindus will offer puja to various lords or goddesses, signifying that particular day’s dedication and celebration.
Sources: National Geographic, CNN, International Business Times, World Gold Council, U.S. Global Investors